Volume 74, Number 20 | September 22 - 28 , 2004

Photo by John Ranard

Karl Schwartz, chief executive for Global Axxess, is a former Republican who claims he was asked to run for governor of Arkansas against Bill Clinton. He discussed the role of 9/11 Commission members in the oil pipeline business.

9/11 conspiracy theorists spin scenarios in Chelsea

By Matthew Reiss

Sept. 11 will never be the same. Not after Saturday night’s conspiracy expo.

Three hundred conspiracy theorists, shuts-ins and regular folk who don’t believe the hype filled the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center on Saturday to hear what a group of self-styled independent investigators have come up with in pursuit of the unvarnished version of the 9/11 attack.

Actor Ed Begley, Jr., hosted a succession of speakers and panels of little-known authors, reporters and documentary filmmakers who treated the capacity crowd to five hours of juicy details. Attendees bought self-published tomes, commemorative T-shirts and documentary DVDs that promised to once and for all indict, convict and hang a White House administration they say stole the presidency, laid demolition charges in the trade towers and launched an unmanned drone aircraft at the Pentagon.

The quirkier attendees bandied their laser beam theories amid serious discussions of puffs of smoke seen emanating from small explosion points or “squibs” on the towers as evidence of controlled demolition; video clips of New York firefighters describing successive explosions they heard in the buildings’ cores that preceded the pancake collapse; an interview with W.T.C. leaseholder Larry Silverstein interpreted as an admission that he authorized the demolition of W.T.C. 7 and enough slow-motion footage of unidentified explosions just before the planes hit the towers to numb the Warren Commission.

One Web radio host’s documentary focused on the Pentagon attack by a commercial airliner, evidence of which, he claimed, mysteriously vanished after banging into a side of the building. A piece of an engine that was found was too small to belong to a commercial airliner, he said.

“I can just see Rumsfeld telling Cheney, ‘How are you gonna claim an airliner hit the Pentagon when the hole in the building is so small?’ ” postulated one ponytailed participant. “And then Cheney saying, ‘Oh don’t worry about it. Whose gonna believe those conspiracy theorists?’ ”

While some attendees were merely curious people who responded to a full-page Village Voice advertisement or friendly e-mail invitation, others showed signs of not getting out enough. When one panelist suggested that the airliners reported to have struck the Pentagon and trade towers may have been diverted to unknown destinations, allowing military aircraft to do the job, and that hiding three planeloads of human evidence was easily carried out in accordance with the “Northwoods Plan,” about 100 people in their seats and on the panel nodded their heads in unison. The remaining audience members learned that “Northwoods” was a secret plan to divert a passenger plane to an undisclosed location, explode a military aircraft in its place and blame it on Castro.

The event was a godsend for some otherwise isolated Manhattanites, as the exchange of phone numbers and e-mail addresses foretold of new friendships, alliances, collaborations. For those interested in getting involved, or maybe even finding his/her significant co-conspirator, check: 911truth.org.

A recent Zogby poll found 49.3 percent of people living in New York State believe that some U.S. leaders “knew in advance that the attacks were planned on or around Sept. 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act.”

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